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The spring of 2011 was the fourth year I would work in the marijuana industry of Humboldt County. The first and second year I was a trimmer, the third year a grower, and in my fourth year I would do countless other jobs. Many of the jobs I did are said to not be traditionally afforded to women. For many people, the third and fourth years in an industry mark a large turning point for networking and access, and this was true for myself as well.
I had run into some financial issues during my third year while growing with a partner. These financial hardships stemmed from a theft by a previous partner. However, I still had rent to pay and electric for nine lights, and those bills for a grower don’t come cheap. I knew even though it wasn’t trim season yet, I needed work to be able to pay my bills.
Most of the work available in Humboldt around early spring is generally physically taxing labor work, and those were the majority of jobs available that paid well enough to get out of the debt that I had found myself in. Being from an agricultural background, I knew what a hard day of labor was, so I was determined to obtain a mountain job.
I had never really heard of many women doing the labor part of mountain work, but I knew I could do it. I had knowledge of a few women working on mountains here and there, but had never really met any women who truly did the laborious grunt work. Previously I had met an owner and a few managers of mountain scenes that were women (and too many trimmers to even count), but never really laborers. I imagined this would take some convincing, and it did, but not for the reasons I expected.
My friend Frank was the perfect person to ask for work, as “networking” was his specialty. He said he didn’t know of anything really that I would be able to do, so I didn’t push it since my networks were growing daily, and there were plenty of people I could ask. I did however, mention it to a mutual friend Chuck, and as it turns out he had actually been offered a job on a mountain by Frank just days earlier.
Absolutely certain I was denied mountain work because I am a woman, I was disappointed. I couldn’t believe that my closest friend would default to such misogynistic ideas about gender roles. Frank and I were close friends, so I called him out on what I perceived as discrimination simply due to my gender. I soon found out I was very wrong. It only took about twenty seconds of voicing my opinion before Frank stopped me and responded with complete amazement and distaste at my idea.
Frank then discussed with me that he did not ask me not because I was a woman, but because we had spent large amounts of time socializing together, and he was worried that I would not stick with it through the season. He also told me that it’s not about women or men, but more about where they come from. He told me that people from rural areas are the folks that generally get asked to do the mountain work, because they know and are familiar with the amount of work that an agricultural job consists of.
I reminded him that I was from an agricultural background and grew up in a farming community. Frank had forgotten that part of my past, and once reminded of it he told me that I could have the job, but that I better stick it out, because he was vouching for me. Frank also told me that I would see when I got there that it has nothing to do with gender.
As I made plans to have my grow cared for and packed up my gear, I was excited and a little nervous. I had ideas that mountain life was hard and sexist, but no matter what I was determined to be successful.
It was Sunday at six am, car packed and ready, and I met Frank at his house so that I could follow him to the spot wher eI would spend the majority of the next four months.
Upon arrival at my new mountain home, I thought it looked rather simple. There was a cabin, a barn, an outhouse, and a trailer. Turns out that was only the beginning. That place and the owner had been in business for quite some time, and it was an efficient and well-staffed commercial-sized grow.
There were three landings and six green houses. This place was huge and absurd, and nothing like I had ever seen or experienced before. Once I was done setting up my camp, I reported for work. My boss, the supervisor of the operation, was a man, but next door was owned and managed by a woman, and the spot next to that was owned by a married couple, but the couple changed off every week who would stay and run the property.
At my new job there were three other full time women and four full time men, and all of these people were there for labor work, as well as all other duties that consisted of being employed at a mountain of this caliber. During busy times such as trimming, (which would come along about every two weeks), the number of workers would almost double. However the gender difference, or lack thereof, stayed about the same.
I worked successfully there for the spring and summer, but in September, I encountered some physical issues, due to a near fatal accident, and could no longer stay at my job. Until that point it was one of the best jobs I had ever had. It was hard work and long days, but at the end of every day, I was filled with a sense of accomplishment and pride.
From that point on, I began to see a lot of people that I never had before. I found women and men at every level of the industry, and the differences that I had once seen began to fade. Now I began to see women holding positions such as land owner, funder, manager, seasonal worker, hash maker, trimmer, broker, dispensary owner, driver, and this list goes on. Everything I thought was about gender was actually about the people I knew, the places I worked, and the person I am. In the Marijuana Economy of Northern California it is more about networks and reputation than about gender.
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Photo Credit: Arne Hückelheim under (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons